A Life-Hacker’s Call to Action: Start Early, Finish First, Win More

call to action

“Diligence is the mother of good luck. Energy and persistence conquer all things.”

– Benjamin Franklin

I’m a self-proclaimed “life-hacker.” I like to fiddle with stuff; I’ve found that there’s a lot on this earth that we can focus on, and most of it isn’t worth our time.

Since I started blogging, I’ve been able get more “things” done than I’d ever thought possible.

I’ve reached a moment of clarity in my life.

Namely, I’ve started building a blog that people seem to care about, I lost over 12 pounds in just over two weeks, and I finished a novel.

Many of you have been in a position similar to where I was before all of this; a place of goals, dreams, and aspirations that were destined to be unfulfilled. But there was a reason I wasn’t able to get anything worthwhile done, and it had to do with a lack of clarity.

I wasn’t holding myself to a higher standard—I was going through the motions, trying to “keep up.” If I could just post one more “me too” blog post; write one more “10 Tips to…” article, I’d make it.

But you probably know that doesn’t work.

You need to find the clarity in your life that will provide not only the necessary motivation to push through, but also the inspiration to give you the right words and thoughts during it all.

Here’s what I did. I call it my “Call to Action”:

Show up.

Woody Allen was quoted as saying, “80 percent of success is showing up.” If you’re trying to finish a project, lose weight, create something of value, or whatever—you owe it to yourself to commit to the task at hand.

But here’s the kicker: I don’t always like the task at hand. I know I’m supposed to show up, but when there’s nothing enticing to show up for, I tend to sleep in and waste hours.

Try these things instead, and you’ll start to “show up” more often:

  • Wake up earlier. I’m not a morning person, but there’s still something awesome about sipping coffee on the porch as the world wakes up around you. I have so much energetic flow in the morning, and I never regret forcing myself out of bed. If you have trouble getting up early, read this.
  • Clear your mind. When you wake up, do your normal routine but then stop and do nothing for a while. Clearing your mind helps you truly focus and get engaged, and it’s a proven method of problem-solving.
  • Prioritize the night before. If I work on setting tomorrow’s goals and tasks before I go to sleep, there’s a much better chance that I’ll wake up and show up. Try writing out a list of the action items for tomorrow, and overnight your subconscious will help tackle them.

Finish first.

This isn’t just a tip on finishing your work first; it’s about finishing in first place. Obviously, most of what we do isn’t a race, but it helps curb the competitive streak in me to feel like I’ve done more in a few hours’ time than most people do in a day.

Since I only have a limited amount of time to work on my personal stuff (the other hours of the day I maintain a full-time job), it’s important to be focused on finishing and achieving my daily goals quickly.

Much can be said of people who can do this; Richard Branson is known for being uber-productive. Having a “four-hour workday” or less is an awesome feeling, especially when you’ve tackled more in four hours than you used to tackle in eight or more.

Win more.

I’m using “win” in an open-ended way. Sure, if you’re in a literal race, it’s great to win.

But what if you’re just trying to cross the finish line? In that case, the only “winning” that really happens isn’t the speed at which you’ve completed the race, it’s the act of finishing.

Seth Godin would call it “shipping”—getting your stuff out the door, and into the hands of people who care. If there’s one common thread among those who “ship,” it’s that they are all winners in their own right.

So set up small “wins” for yourself. You “win” if you:

  • Finish that really long blog post.
  • Finish the book, chapter, or page.
  • Get to your written word count goal.
  • Finish the design
  • Etc.

These are small wins that add up to major wins. Focus on winning more, every day, every time you sit down at the computer.

Putting it into play…

Easy to say, I guess. All of the above information is probably stuff you’ve heard before. You already know what sets the “superheroes” apart from the rest of us—you want to know how to actually do these things, right?

Here’s what I recommend:

  1. Connect. There’s nothing truer than relationships. You can’t fake them, either. If you’re just starting out, or even you’ve started making waves in your niche, connect with other like-minded people. They don’t have to be focused on the same topic as you, but they should be the type of person who you can learn something from—and hopefully they’ll learn from you, too. Twitter, Facebook, networking events, and coffee shops make this an easy task.
  2. Add value. Like connecting, you can’t fake value. Wherever you are, whatever you do—seek to add value to other peoples’ lives. If they need help, help. If they need advice, point them in the right direction. Don’t expect reciprocation, but know that adding value isreciprocal.
  3. Constantly create. Don’t let distractions, the daily grind, or failures set you back. Continue to build cool things and create awesome stuff. Write better posts, link to more helpful articles, and ship.

You’re going to fail. You’re going to make mistakes. When I first started blogging, I wrote constantly—for myself. I’d post funny stories, cute anecdotes, and sometimes really great content. The problem?

No one cared.

I got discouraged; I quit.

Now, I’m focused not only on creating awesome content and shipping, but also on helping to build other peoples’ platforms through linking, sharing content, and just being nice.

If you strive for excellence and focus on doing the three things I’ve mentioned here, I don’t really see how you could fail.

What it means to be a “life hacker”.

Like I said, I’m a self-declared life-hacker. That means that I want to find the easiest, most efficient way to tackle a problem.

I don’t want to go with the status quo—I want to want to work smart, not just hard.

If you want the most out of life, and the most out of your effort, put these three things into practice. Like most things worth doing, it’ll take time and effort to get there.

Now it’s your turn. In the comments, let me know exactly what you’re doing to put these three strategies into play!

Photo by David Goehring

12 thoughts on “A Life-Hacker’s Call to Action: Start Early, Finish First, Win More”

  1. I read your blog often. It just helps me to get my head on straight before what will always be a big day. I, of course, know all of these things but reading your blog helps me to order them and to live on purpose.

    At the end of this entry or article you talk about your start, just writing for you. That is what I do. For me it is reflection and just helps me get my day off of my chest. I recognize that I am writing for myself or posterity but I do it also just to get myself writing again. It is a healthy part of my routine. I have plans to start to write for others. I have a lot to say. Your blog inspires me.

    Anyway, thank you. Good work.

  2. I read your post from the perspective of someone living with chronic health and disability issues – things that tend to interfere with ‘getting things done’.

    But there are gems, even for me, in your post! A huge validation of those things that I am putting into place; the ‘small wins that add up to major wins’. I’m a life-hacker, with a twist, lol.

    As for your three recommendations, I’m doing better at the first two than I am the third. Connecting in person is difficult considering health and geography, but I am connecting online. Facebook, Twitter, forums, Ning groups and, recently, blog link ups.

    I do everything I can to add value to my online presence and connections; to be ‘real’. I’ve been lucky enough to be told numerous times that I’ve inspired someone in some way!

    I’m still in the process of looking for ways to create on a more regular basis. Not just creating posts, but crafting posts that create more value for the people reading them. On my creativity based blog, I’ve included some great links and a free download of an art journaling page. On my newer blog, I’ve included tips, resources and even a few recipes.

    It’s all a learning process, but becoming a life-hacker is an excellent way to tackle that process!

  3. Your blog are very motivating and energizing. I too am of the early morning type. Most of my energy and mental clarity is then. I started a blog as a result of your blog and other thing coming back into focus in my spiritual life.

    1. Thanks, Margo! I’m not “naturally” an early-morning type, but it’s been a huge boon to my productivity to get up early and get stuff done.

      Glad you liked the post, and good luck!


  4. I read change blogs all time. It’s fascinating website for me.
    I really, really liked reading and applying some of your suggestion on my daily activity. It really helped me a lot.

  5. Hi Nick,

    I have been in constant struggle on how to handle things in general. And when I said things, I meant all things in life from career, relationships, habits, attitude. I know the basic stuff. I’ve read tons of inspirational articles. But I seem to lack the motivation or will power or discipline (or whatever it is that I am lacking) when dealing with my life (again, in all aspects). This article of yours was an eye opener. My problem can be simply handled using these three pointers that you have presented. And I thank you for creating a fully-packed article that simply covered everything from top to bottom. This is how I want to handle my life. “Show up, finish first and win more” can also be translated into: “just do it, aim for the best output, and accomplish your goals even in small bits”.

    Thanks again Nick!

  6. A great read. I found your blog through Thorny Bleeder’s DIY Daily and I’m happy he shared it.

    Being a musician, I go through a lot of the same problems that bloggers do. Lack of confidence in what I do. A procrastination about finishing songs, blogs posts, returning emails. I have found what you’ve said to be true. I started waking up earlier a few weeks ago and since then have found more time in my day for not only my writing, but I’ve also started working out and getting in better shape. The working out has also led me to feeling better and eating healthier (hard to ride a bike after a double cheese burger).

    Thank you for adding some more suggestions and inspiration to aid in moving things forward.

  7. Great post with phenomenal insight and tools for better effectiveness and efficiency. I’m putting some of these concepts into play right now in my journey as I about to embark on a very challenging part of the year. With alot to accomplish goal wise I’m sure these concepts will help with my approach to reaching my goals. Thanks, and too your continued success.

  8. I agree with you so much. I write and write and write right now, but no one is listening. That hurts and discourages me, but I keep going, in the hopes that someday I’ll have someone stop by.

    But I don’t go out looking for them.

    And I know this isn’t good marketing. I work in retail, after all. Which I think is part of the problem. My days are so filled with social activity, and I’m not a very social person in the first place, that I don’t feel like socializing after work. I just want to type my blog post and go to bed (after my nightly routine is finished).

    I don’t really know if it’s even possible to make myself be a more social person. But I think I’ll try. I’ve done some of the initial build-up work from my former blog. It just sucked me so dry last time that I didn’t really wanna do that again. Thanks for all the tips, and hopefully this socially awkward blogger can make it work this time. ;~D

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